On Friday 26th October about 50 people will trade their beds for a piece of cardboard in the grounds of St John’s, Darlinghurst, in order to raise money for the parish to continue caring for those experiencing homelessness.

Roughtober, the annual fundraising month for the Rough Edges ministry, aims to raise $45,000 to contribute to ministry costs. The sleepout also involves an exposure walk through the streets of Darlinghurst, guided by a member of the church who has experienced homelessness and been helped by Rough Edges.

Everyone is welcome

“We invite people from all over our local community to participate in our sleepout,” says Paula Darwin, the fundraising and community engagement manager at St John’s. “They experience what it’s like to sleep rough for one night and by doing so they raise funds for Rough Edges by seeking sponsorship.”

Rough Edges has between 70 and 150 homeless patrons come through its doors each week for a meal and a sense of community. With a current wait time of up to 10 years for public housing, many find themselves couch surfing, in temporary accommodation such as hostels, or sleeping on the streets, unable to afford rent.

Rough Edges has between 70-150 homeless patrons come through its doors each week

Ms Darwin can relate. “I know what it’s like to not have any money for rent, and not to know where to go.” For three months, she relied on the support of Christian friends after her marriage broke down and the experience has fuelled her passion for the ministry of Rough Edges.

“I’m just on fire for the work of Rough Edges,” she says. “I go in and think,

‘This can happen to anyone – it’s only a few steps’. Now I think God uses me to bless others.”

This year’s Roughtober participants include local businesses, local ministers, Christians from St John’s and a range of other churches, and also several schools.

The Rev Dr Michael Jensen, rector of neighbouring parish St Mark’s, Darling Point, sees this as another way he and his parish can continue partnering with an incredible ministry.

“Our church has a special relationship with Rough Edges,” he says. An although St Mark’s has supported the ministry for many years in a variety of ways, this will be his first time roughing it himself..  

“Leadership from the front needs to be there and be part of it,” he says.

“It says that it’s a significant and important and worthwhile thing, and that we as a parish are committed. I really believe in Rough Edges, so this is really the least I can do.”

Dr Jensen believes it is important for everyone to remember God’s blessings and grow in compassion for those struggling.

“If the grace of God means that everything we have comes from God’s hand as a blessing, and it’s nothing to do with what we’ve earned, it awakens us to see what others don’t have in a new light,” he says. “They’re not lazy or stupid. It’s much more complex. It provides greater sympathy for those doing it tough. It says we know people do it tough for different reasons.

“It’s a helpful reminder to remember our own blessedness, and how can we not be generous when God is generous to us?”